LAGOS- Prof. Taiwo Sheikh, Immediate Past President, Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), has urged the President-elect, Sen. Bola Tinubu, to intensify efforts toward implementation of the new National Mental Health Act.
Sheikh, a lecturer in Psychiatric Department, College of Medical Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, gave the advice in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Lagos.
NAN recalls that President Muhammadu Buhari had, in January, signed into law the Mental Health Bill, as passed by the National Assembly in 2021.
The signing, which appeared to be a parting gift to Nigerians from the president, is the first Mental Health Act in post-independent Nigeria and will also replace the Lunacy Act of 1958.
The psychiatrist said it was necessary that all aspects of the Act be implemented to pave way for development of effective mental health delivery system in the country, saying that mental health had been neglected for long.
According to him, implementation of the new Act will enhance the country’s mental wellness.
“It is a good thing that we now have an updated Mental Health Law.
“But one thing is to sign the Mental Health Bill into law, which had been done by President Muhammadu Buhari, another is the implementation and enforcement of the law.
”In Nigeria, we don’t lack laws. What we lack is implementation. We have had series of laws but their implementation/execution has remained a challenge.
“Therefore, it is imperative that the incoming government intensifies efforts to implement every aspect of the Act to enable it make impacts on the lives of Nigerians,” he said.
Sheikh stressed the need for ‘political will’ in order to be able to implement the law.
According to him, all the necessary stakeholders, especially the law enforcement agencies, need to be updated about their crucial roles for a seamless take-off and adequate funding.
He stated that with implementation of the Act, people with mental health challenges would no longer have to suffer dejection, denials, stigmatisation or discrimination.
Sheikh said, “The Act defines and protects the rights of Nigerians with mental illnesses.
“It provides equal access to treatment and care, discourages stigma and discrimination and sets standards for psychiatric practice in Nigeria, among other provisions.”
He also called for full implementation of the Mental Health Policy, which is currently under review.
Sheikh noted that the implementation of the policy had become necessary in order to guarantee integration of mental health services at primary, secondary and tertiary health institutions across the country.
He explained that the benefits of the policy entailed that the citizens could easily have access to mental health services at anytime and anywhere in the country. (NAN)